Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize victory generated a storm of criticism, mostly because of his living and writing within China. He’s gotten some harsh criticism especially from other Chinese dissidents which I feel is excessive. Apparently a writer can only be worthy if he is a dissident or in exile. Other people have defended him, which is a good thing as they can separate the politics and emotions (towards China) from their judgments. Some people see his win as a political decision, made to appease China as a favor. I haven’t read Mo Yan’s books yet and I didn’t know about him until he won the prize, though I did hear of the movie Red Sorghum based on his novel. Yet from what I read about his and his books, it’s a good decision. There may have been better Chinese writers, but Mo Yan is a worthy one. Yes, Mo Yan could have been more critical or spoken out for Liu Xiangbo, but then what? Would it have a significant difference? Mo Yan is a novelist and his main medium is writing. By being banned or exiled, his books wouldn’t be as widely available in China and most Chinese would not be able to read them. By remaining in China, and hence kind of having to limit himself a bit, he can continue with his work. Mo Yan gave his Nobel lecture over the weekend, which you can read here or watch the actual lecture here.
I think the Nobel committee’s most embarrassing and political decision was when it gave Barack Obama the peace prize, for having accomplished nothing but basically for being black and winning the US presidency. Or even this year, when it awarded Europe (the European Union) the peace prize for having kept the peace since World War II. On the other hand, I think China should stop ignoring Gao Xingjian, who was the first Chinese to win the Nobel Literature prize. While Gao is a naturalized French citizen who moved to France a long time ago and is a dissident, most Chinese should feel proud that two Chinese have won the Nobel Literature prize in 12 years.